What are radiologic technicians?
Radiologic technologists (also referred to as radiographers) are integral members of the health care team that image the human body utilizing ionizing radiation (x-rays). Taking x-rays on humans requires extensive knowledge of safe radiation practices and patient positioning.
Skilled radiographers save our population from unnecessary and unsafe levels of radiation exposure. Radiographers are generally employed in hospitals, doctor's offices, chiropractor's offices, as well as stand alone imaging centers. Although imaging is the primary function of the radiographer, patient care is also emphasized as a vital function of the radiographer.
How long does it take to become a radiographer and what is the curriculum like?
Radiographers will go to school full-time for two years. Outside of general education requirements, courses will teach anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, the health care environment, radiographic procedures, radiographic positioning, radiographic physics, and patient care.
Additionally, students will spend several 8 hour days in a hospital setting per week as clinical training (days and times vary). Although we can not dictate what you do on your own time, the curriculum is intense and students will generally do better if their personal lives are in order and they do not have a job while in the program.
Is the radiologic technology program accredited and after I graduate, how do I obtain licensure?
The new radiography program at Joliet Junior College falls under the full accreditation of North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). The curriculum of the radiography program follows the curriculum outlined by the American Society of Radiologic Technology (ASRT) and as such, graduates of the program are eligible to sit for the radiography examination administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).
In addition to passing the examination of the ARRT, graduates must also follow guidelines of the state in which they intend to practice. In Illinois, for example, radiographers must show proof of ARRT registry and apply for state licensure.
Other than taking X-rays, what do radiographers do?
The primary role of the radiographer is to interpret physician orders and perform diagnostic x-rays as directed by the patient's physician and the radiologist. While some x-rays do require limited patient contact and care, certain tests require specialized patient care or procedure in order to complete the examination. This care may include administration of various contrast medias via oral, rectal, or intravenous (IV) routes. As a result, the student radiographer is taught extensive patient care techniques including intravenous (IV) insertion and how to perform enemas. Therefore, patient assessment and care are vital skills learned by the student radiographer.
What type of x-rays do radiographers perform?
Virtually any part of the body can be visualized utilizing x-rays. Radiographers commonly perform x-rays on the chest, abdomen, head, and extremities. While some of these parts may require nothing more than a few images, some may require extensive imaging with complex procedures using contrasts. The student radiographer will learn to image the entire body utilizing established and accepted practices.
What is the difference between a radiographer and a radiologist?
The radiographer is a highly skilled member of the health care team that utilizes ionizing radiation to produce diagnostic images of the human body (x-rays). A majority of radiographers are trained at the community college level and obtain Associate in Applied Science degrees. On the other hand, radiologists are physicians with a residency in radiologic technology.
Radiologists direct the entire imaging department and are responsible for interpretation of the diagnostic images produced within the department. Radiographers do not interpret diagnostic images.
Are radiographers exposed to radiation? If so, how is this safe?
Radiographers are exposed to some radiation while performing their duties. While this can not be prevented in some circumstances, radiographers are taught safe radiation practices in order to minimize their own exposure as well as exposure to others.
The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) has set exposure limits for radiation workers including radiographers and as a result, radiographers and radiography students wear monitoring devices that determine their radiation exposure. If radiographers utilize established practices for safe radiation exposure, their occupational exposure to radiation will be far below the limits set forth by the NCRP.
A radiographer's radiation exposure is generally safe but what if a radiographer becomes pregnant?
Pregnancy is always a concern with any radiation worker. If a radiographer or radiography student should become pregnant, certain procedures need to be followed as set forth by the NCRP. Student radiographers who become pregnant must immediately notify the Radiography Program Coordinator/Director and provide a physician's authorization to return to clinical practice. Pregnant radiographers must take special precautions in order to avoid radiation exposure to the fetus. These special precautions may exempt the pregnant student radiographer from performing required training and procedures.
Although every effort will be made in order to assist such a student in graduating on time, it may be necessary for a student who becomes pregnant to either graduate late or to withdraw and reenter the program one year later. Each case is unique depending upon the student's completed requirements and point at which they are in the program. Regardless of any difficulties involved in such a situation, no student should conceal a pregnancy from the Program Coordinator/Director and any student found doing so shall be dismissed from the program immediately.
As a radiographer, who will be my boss and who is my customer?
This is actually a more complex question than it seems. While the x-ray department will be structured like most other jobs with supervisors and managers, health care is a complex structure of allied health professionals, physicians, administration, and patients. While you will be accountable to some sort of boss, you will also be accountable to physicians and other professionals that are not technically a part of your departmental structure. The typical attitude in health care is that everyone is your boss and your customer. The ultimate goal of health care is to provide appropriate and satisfactory care to the patient. As a result, every person has a responsibility to each other in order to accomplish this goal.
Since patient satisfaction is an extremely highly regarded commodity in health care, the radiographer (and student radiographer) must treat every interaction at work as if the person you are communicating with is their boss and customer. Anyone considering a career in health care must possess the skills of empathy, respect, integrity, and humility in order to achieve this goal.
After I become a radiographer, in what ways can i grow professionally?
The great thing about becoming a radiographer is the growth potential. Just 30 years ago, imaging simply meant x-rays. Today, this ever-changing field has grown leaps and bounds due to technological advancements. We all have had or know someone who has had an ultrasound, magnetic resonance (MR), computed tomography (CT), nuclear medicine, or positron emission (PET) exam. All of these new tests have developed through technology and are under the umbrella of imaging and radiologic technology. As a radiographer, you can grow professionally by learning these technologies through training or education once you have gained experience as a radiographer.
Additionally, some radiographers obtain higher degrees and become managers, educators, or administrators. In radiologic technology, the possibilities truly are endless.